Yesterday evening, volatile 31-year-old Milwaukee Brewers' reliever Francisco Rodriguez, more commonly known as "K-Rod", was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for mid-level prospect Nick Delmonico. Rodriguez has had an up and down past couple years with the Brewers, although this year he's had a ERA of 1.09 and had reclaimed has role as Milwaukee's closer. This isn't a post about a trade between two MLB teams not based in Toronto though. This is about the possible effect this trade has on Toronto's assets in the bullpen. An unpredictable and occasionally wild reliever was traded to a contender to be a set-up man in exchange for the #4 prospect in Baltimore's farm system. A farm system that includes Dylan Bundy at #1 and Kevin Gausman at #2.
Sitting behind the left field wall at the Rogers Centre are at least three, maybe four, relievers who have been better this year than Francisco Rodriguez. With the season quite clearly over, it's time for Alex Anthopoulos to move at least one of these bullpen pieces for something of value in return from a contending team.
The second place Pittsburgh Pirates placed All-Star closer Jason Grilli on the 15-day DL today and promoted Mark Melancon to the ninth inning. Melancon's been great this year, but he's only one year removed from being one of the worst relievers in the league last year with Boston. It also leaves a hole in the setup department for the Pirates that could be filled by someone by the name of Brett Cecil or Steve Delabar. These two All-Star pitchers will never have their trade value any higher and if they aren't shopped to contending teams it would be a real missed opportunity.
Brett Cecil is under team control for three and a half more seasons and could net the Blue Jays a huge return. A team that needs a LOOGY, a set-up guy, or even a team that thinks they could turn him into a starter again would give much more than the mid-level prospect that Baltimore gave to the Brewers. If there's one thing the Blue Jays have been able to do consistently, it's turning potential in relievers into results. Another thing the Blue Jays have shown this year is a top 10 bullpen cannot win games by itself. The pieces the team would receive from trading Brett Cecil would likely be worth much more than the left hander is currently worth to this year's, and even future Blue Jays teams.
An even more attractive trade piece for the Blue Jays would be Steve Delabar. An extra year of team control over Brett Cecil would give the buyer four and a half more seasons of the affordable set-up man, who could easily close if given the chance. Contending teams with struggling bullpens like Detroit, LA, and Boston would all likely be in on a bidding war on the first time All-Star and the Blue Jays could turn their set-up man into multiple assets that can help the team even more going forward.
The last two likely trade targets of other teams in the Blue Jays bullpen are Aaron Loup and Casey Janssen. Loup is in his first year of service and brings to mind former Blue Jays left hander Marc Rzepczynski who was traded in his second year of service to St. Louis in the Colby Rasmus trade. A team trading for Loup would be hoping for a dominant LOOGY for many years to come.
Janssen on the other hand has an option for 2014 and would slot right into a closers role (Pittsburgh possibly?) if given the chance, with the team having the choice to pick up his option or use him as a rental. If "K-Rod" can bring back a top five prospect, someone with a track record like Janssen's could bring at least two or maybe three pieces back to the Blue Jays from a hungry contender.
In the end, it's up to general manager Alex Anthopoulos and how he views this year's team and next. Relievers are the easiest position in baseball to acquire, as he's shown, and acquiring them for cheap and selling them at their peaks has been a successful strategy for AA in his tenure so far. Almost exactly a year ago Steve Delabar was acquired for spare parts Eric Thames, and now Delabar could net multiple prospects one trade deadline later. It seems almost silly to hold onto so many highly sought after relievers when the team's season is clearly over and a "retooling" for next year will have to take place. Having the opportunity to use one of your many bullpen pieces to shore up a hole in the team like second base or catcher is a chance too good to pass up. When the clock strikes midnight on July 31, hopefully the team has made some moves that make it more likely that when a Blue Jays reliever runs in from left field, they're coming in to protect a lead.